Boston Red Sox Report Cards: Clay Buchholz


Now that the 2015 season is in the books, the BoSox Injection staff will hand out their final report cards, grading the performances of each member of the Boston Red Sox roster based on their expectations entering the season.

CLAY BUCHHOLZ . B. . Starting Pitcher.

2015 Stats: 7-7, 3.26 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 8.50 K/9, 2.7 WAR

Clay Buchholz continues to be an enigma for the Red Sox. At times he can look like one of the league’s most dominant pitchers, then at the drop of a hat he can suddenly become a disaster.

Take his first two starts of the season for example. Buchholz was brilliant in hurling 7 shutout innings in Philadelphia on Opening Day, but six days later he went into Yankee Stadium and was torched for 9 runs. Even the best pitchers in the game get lit up once in a while, but the Jekyll and Hyde routine is hardly uncommon throughout Buchholz’s career. He can be frustrating to watch because his talent is so evident, yet there are times when he appears unfocused and can’t get his head in the game.

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That was the case for the bulk of last season, but this year we saw more of the good Buchholz. His strikeout rate was the highest it’s been since 2008 and his 4.65 K/BB ratio was easily a career-high, putting him among the top handful of starters in the league in that category. He not only had the best ERA on the team among pitchers that made at least 5 starts, but he would have ranked 7th in the league if he had enough innings to qualify.

Ah, but therein lies the rub. Buchholz failed to pitch enough innings to qualify, finishing with only 113.1 innings over 18 starts before being shut down with an elbow injury. This marks the fifth time in the last eight years that Buchholz has made 18 starts or less. He’s never reached 190 innings in a season and has tossed 170+ innings only three times in his career.

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It wasn’t initially expected to be a season-ending injury, but while the Red Sox teased his potential return a few times down the stretch, Buchholz never made it back on the mound. This once again raised questions about Buchholz’s motivation for working his way back from the various ailments that he’s endured over his career.

The Red Sox haven’t confirmed it yet, but it’s assumed that they will pick up his $13 million option for 2016. While relying on the fragile 31-year old is a risk, he doesn’t need to pitch a full season to be worth that contract. This year he produced a 2.7 WAR in just over half a season, which was enough value to live up to his relative bargain of a deal.

Dave Dombrowski is intent on finding an ace to anchor this rotation, so while Buchholz probably won’t be getting the ball again on Opening Day, there should be a spot open for him in the rotation – at least for as long as he can remain healthy.